Filed in Category: horse training
Run Horsey, Run.
Hello Ross Sorry to hear about the bank situation. It's frightening because you hear it on the news but when someone you know encounters theft of this nature it cements how real the situation is.
I have been playing with Merlin who is Whistlers brother. Merlin is nearly four and is dead to the leg. For the first week and a bit I have mainly done ground work because I noticed that he walks with no life. He just seems to plod along and be totally shut down, he even hangs his head so low it looks like he wished it was under the ground as he walks. I found it really hard to get some energy into Merlin so I introduced a flag as I felt like I was working hard and the more I tried the slower he got. The flag definitely brought out a different side of Merlin. I worked both sides and the flag is still a work in progress, each day had started the same as the day before but his nervousness about the flag shifts much quicker. I have progressed to riding him and found that he is the same plodder in saddle. He has no life in his walk and is just going through the motions. His owner said that he pins his ears when asked for a trot and I think this is because his walk is not there and when you ask for a trot it interrupts his thought and he pins his ears but he is so sweet that that is all you get. I tried to squeeze first and he goes but with no life so I asked again, no change so I asked by releasing the reins and doing lots of annoying kicks and the minute he went I would stop but this worked for a second. I then tried a squeeze, kick, big kick and this worked but is a lot of effort and I don't think was productive. I thought about it and realized that he goes with the flag so perhaps sound sets him off. I then squeezed, he walked on I raised my energy , squeezed again then made a funny sound which made him go with life. This works for a few steps then back to plod and the ritual starts again. I thought to then grab a branch with a few leaves and use that to make some noise. What I noticed though whether it be my voice or the branch which I use slightly not aggressively is that we go from plod to trot more than plod to active walk. I slow him by going in a circle to an active walk but then we go to plod. In try to stop before the walk becomes a plod but miss the mark. Can you please bless me with your wisdom of how I can get an active walk not a plod and what I should do if I go from plod straight to trot. Thanks Irena
You are on the right track. Don't worry so much about an active walk just at the moment. Work on getting the walk to trot transition smooth and an active trot. I said in my last post that a good walk is the hardest gait of all to achieve. This is especially true of a horse like Merlin. Use the natural energy that the trot creates to get him thinking a more forward response to the leg.
Squeeze with your legs, then if there is no response, use the branch, flag or crop to get him forward. Keep repeating this exercise until you can get a nice trot just from a squeeze of your leg (we'll worry about a response to your seat another time). Don't just accept any old trot. Insist of on a forward trot - not a plodding trot. Remember squeeze, then get busy with your flag or tree branch or whatever. Busy is more effective than firm. When I ride a horse that is unresponsive to my seat and legs, I apply the crop with a flurry of activity. I don't get forceful and beat on the horse. Instead, I whack my leg repeatedly until I get a response - it might be 10 whacks in 3 seconds - that's what I mean by a flurry. I keep being busy with the crop until I get the change I want. So don't stop just because he gives any old trot. Keep using the crop rapid fire until you get a good forward trot. Merlin understands what it is to go forward - it's just that somebody has trained him it's not important. Now you have to reprogram him into thinking forward is important.
So the first task is to have Merlin going from walk to trot with just a gentle squeeze from your leg. If he goes to a plodding walk when he comes down from the trot, immediately send him forward again into the good forward trot. I mean immediately, not 2 or 3 strides later. Get the good trot and allow him to transition to the walk again. If the walk is sleepy, instantly send him forward into the trot again. Keep repeating the process until he gives you a few good walk steps. Give him a break before repeating the process again.
It won't be long before he will offer a forward walk from your seat, a good trot from your leg and canter from a little more leg. You'll be able to leave the crop in the tack room. Remember to give him plenty of rein and no contact - don't hinder his forwardness in anyway with the reins.
Let me know how you get along.
Filed in Category: horse training
A Horse On The Edge
Well, I am back for round two if you are up for it! Thank you very much for your previous advice regarding the float loading. I moved my mare to a new agistment facility a couple of weeks ago, and float loaded her using your advice (of being consistent in my communication and insisting that she engage in a civil conversation about the float). It was the best she has ever loaded and traveled, so I was very pleased. Once I had her attention, and had made it clear that I expected her to engage in some sort of communication over the problem, she seemed to just relax and offered to walk in on her own. It felt really good.
I have been taking things steadily at the new facility, but I have ridden her a couple of times, and have come up against similar issues to what I had had at the old facility. It appears that she is not yet settled in to thinking that this is home, and wants to head back in the general direction of the old property. I took her on a quiet trail ride with some others on the weekend, and she was really very good until we got to the turn around point so that we were no longer heading away from the paddock (which happened to be in the direction of her old place). She stopped, tried a few small rears, bit at my leg and foot, and backed me into the bushes a couple of times. When she went up I gave the rein so as not to pull her over (she will go higher if pushed), and when she got all four feet back on the ground I just stayed with the initial pressure I had on the rein to ask her to walk up the track. When she tried to bite me I just kicked my foot up and down. After a little time she relaxed and offered to walk off in the direction I was offering of her own accord. I felt that this was an improvement on past episodes.
This morning I took her for a walk around the property, and decided I might like to see if she would walk into the undercover arena. She was clearly tense about the idea, so I just waited and kept bringing her attention back to the problem. She backed up, reared, span, turned, and generally snaked herself around in any way possible to avoid having to confront the arena. I felt as though I did a good job in quietly persisting, without pushing, to bring her back each time and continue the conversation. Finally I got her to take some steps towards the arena but she then wanted to dart off away and back to the paddock. At this point I couldn't get her attention back, and decided to hop off. I led her into the undercover arena with no problem (she is extremely good with my leadership from the ground), and remounted. We did some stops and turns in the arena and everything felt good. I walked her out the other side of the arena (it is unfenced), and headed off down the track back to her paddock. She was very soft and connected at that time. I tested her stop, reinback, and left and right reins along the way and she offered no resistance.
So, my dilemma is should I persist in trying to work through these issues in the saddle, or are there exercises on the ground that I can use to assist? My difficulty in knowing what to do here results from a few things.
I really appreciate your help.
Thanks and regards,
I'm not sure I have any answers for you. The problem is that because I have not seen you and your horse first hand I am not sure if your problems stem from your horse being truly worried about the situations you put her in OR she is not so worried, but more unsure that you have earned the right to lead this partnership. In other words, are her ideas not to head home and not enter the covered arena derived from genuine fear for her life or a determined and strong will mind. From what you write I get a sense it is more of the latter - that she is not convinced that your ideas are better than her ideas and she is not going to listen. But I would hate to be wrong because my advice for either case would be very different and if I was wrong my advice could get you into trouble.
Nevertheless, I think you have to get smarter. Clearly the fact that she will rear if pushed is a worry for you - so don't go there. But equally I would be careful not to acquiesce to her demands. I think there can be a middle road - a smarter road - a less confrontational road. A thought that you might consider is to out wait your mare. For example, if she won't walk into the covered arena, take her as close as she will go without an argument and wait. Do nothing except keep her pointing towards the arena entrance. If she looks off in the distance, point her back towards the arena. If she backs up, do nothing but keep her pointing towards the arena. If she goes to wander away, point her back to the arena. If she tries to lay down, stop her from doing that with your heels and point her to the arena entrance. All you are doing is telling her that she has no job except to keep looking towards the arena. Don't ask her to go forward or not back up - just point her to the arena. At some point between 2 minutes and 2 weeks she will walk forward. Allow it and sit quietly. When she stops do nothing except keep her pointed towards the arena. It's so important that you keep her straight and you interrupt her when she looks away or tries to move away. Keep this up until she walk into the arena or as close as you think she can get that day. Honestly, it could take a few minutes or a few hours - you have to be prepared to sit there for a very long time. The second time you do it will take half as long and the third time will be so much faster.
Now I'm not suggesting that this is what I would do in your case because I don't know your horse. If I was sitting on her I might feel something very different and decide a totally opposite approach - I don't know. But I just want to give you some thoughts on how things could be done very differently. How you could work smarter without getting into an argument you might regret having started. But you have to use your knowledge of the horse and your instincts when tackling a situation that you are not sure of the outcome.
There is nothing wrong with doing more ground work, but I suspect there are issues under saddle that can only be addressed under saddle. If you feel you are too unsure about your mare then send her to the best horse person you can find and spend as much time with them as you can. Learn everything they have to teach and get some riding in on your mare while she is at the trainers.
Let me know how you go.